When next you visit the seaside, take a seat upon the soft grainy shore, close your eyes and pay close attention to the music of the waves. In all its raw and natural beauty, the sea produces a pure and timeless music that lulls and calms while still creating the intrinsic drama of nature at its finest.
A small wave kisses the shore, tentative and light – the bloom of a butterfly’s kiss. A second follows, stronger, more courageous, reaching salty fingers further up the sandy beach, then retreating. A teasing, sensual liquid dance. A third follows, thrusting, stronger, more urgent as it crashes, white-flecked upon the shore spitting foam and grasping at the grains for purchase. It too retreats unsuccesffully. A soft roar pulls your eyes to the ocean. A wave crests out at sea, as if at last hearing the plight of the smaller, weaker waves. It rolls in, gathering its strength, tumbling into itself, rising higher, tipped with seafoam as if bearing a brace of pure white weapons. It races in, overtaking the tiny wavelets ripping them apart in its wake. It thrusts onto the sand, higher, further than any of its liquid siblings. The roar that grips your heart and tenses your muscles ends in a crashing sputtering splash, before it too inevitably retreats, swallowing the smaller waves as it leaves, satisfied it had revealed its prowess.
Every scene should be like these cresting waves on the seashore. A little tentative dance leading up to a crescendo of emotion, and then satisfaction and resolution. The reader must move upon these waves, be taken for this ride unconscious of the intention of the writer. The reader must be transported emotionally to experience the push and pull of your words as you build on their emotional investment, feeding it until you have them wrapped within the skeins of the world you have woven around them as they read. Some writers are blessed with the ability to unconsciously create such moving, poetic prose. Other writers learn the art. Either way the result is the same. A reader transported into the world you have built within your novel, to meet the characters and live the experience of your words.
How does a writer create such scenes? How do you structure your sentences, paragraphs and chapters to ensure you have this same lyrical movement within them?
Sentence length is the first place to begin. Short sentences increase dramatic effect, pulling the reader in with bated breath. Longer sentences allow the emotional attachment to ebb, drawing the reader away to take a breath, allowing the supsense to heighten.
Within the sentence again is word length, similar to sentence length in intention to either draw the reader in or allow them to relax and come back for more. Using both these techniques with words and sentences creates an endless possibility in terms of drawing emotion from the reader because remember both you and your reader have made a commitment to each other- the writer agrees to weave the spell and the reader agrees to be spellbound.
With sentences, their construction also contracts or releases tension. Sentences beginnings and endings, the rise and fall as the sentence is read is vital to the reader. Remember that even silent readers ‘hear’ the rise and fall. Not paying attention to the music of your words results in a disjointed feel to the writing- like trying to sing Somewhere over the Rainbow to the music from the Bohemian Rhapsody.
Essentially every scene and every chapter also includes rising action, climax and denoument. The result is a suspenseful tale throughout, a novel that grips the reader chapter by chapter, until they are surprised when they read the words ‘The End’.
Do you write to the music in your head? Do you follow a writing plan or does your lyrical prose come naturally? Do you believe that the musicality of your writing matters at all?